A team of researchers from the Natural History Museum in Vienna, from the University of Vienna in Austria and from the Washington University in St. Louis, USA recently conducted the first successful direct dating of the material. Several previous attempts to radiocarbon date the Mladec specimens directly have failed, but in the present attempt by using teeth as dating material reliable results were obtained.
The findings are documented in the May 19 issue of Nature.
"The dating results document that these samples are as old as we thought they should be," agree Maria Teschler-Nicola from the Natural History Museum in Vienna and Erik Trinkaus, professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, the two anthropologists involved in this study. "The Mladec samples date to around 31,000 years ago," reports Eva Maria Wild from the VERA (Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator) Laboratory at University of Vienna, where the radiocarbon dating has been performed. This is the oldest assemblage of modern humans in Europe which retains many portions of the skeleton plus archaeological objects from the Aurignacian period. Only two modern human specimens from a site in Romania, dated to ~35,000 years ago, are older. At Mladec there are multiple individuals - at least 5 or 6 represented. The dating shows that the Mladec assemblage is central to discussions of modern human emergence in Europe and the fate of the Neandertals.
The Mladc remains are universally accepted as those of early modern humans. However, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether they also exhibit distinctive archaic features, indicative of some degree of Neandertal ancestry, or are morphologically aligned solely with recent humans and therefore document only a dispersal of modern humans into Europe.
The radiocarbon dating of the Mladec assemblage confirms that they derived from the time period of the middle to late Aurignacian of Central Europe. Given the presence of multiple individuals, males and females, adult and immature with cranial, dental and postcranial elements, the Mladec assemblage becomes the oldest directly dated substantial assemblage of modern human remains in Europe.
Univ. Prof. Dr. Eva Maria Wild
Institut für Isotopenforschung und Kernphysik der Universität Wien
Waehringer Strasse 17
A-1090 Wien, Austria
Univ. Prof. Dr. Maria Teschler-Nicola
Naturhistorisches Museum Wien
Burgring 7, Postfach 417
A-1014 Wien, Austria
Tel.: 0043 1 52177-572 od. 239
Fax: 0043 1 52177-230
Prof. Erik Trinkaus
Department of Anthropology
St. Louis, MO 63130, USA
AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert! system.